Maybe you’ve forgotten what it’s like to be eight years old.
When you’re eight years old, school is about fun. It’s an adventure of new clothes and backpacks, classroom goldfish and dinosaur posters. Your teacher smiles a lot, and her skirt swishes when she walks between the groups of desks, lightly tapping on your shoulder.
Recess is about fifteen minutes of freedom when dolls come alive, and the jungle gym becomes a castle. You never leave a damsel in distress and are sure to destroy the dragon before the bell marks the end of the battle…
When you’re eight years old, gym class isn’t a nerve-wracking embarrassment, because it’s all a whirling race between Doctor Dodgeball, jumping jacks, and double-knotted shoelaces. And re-tying double-knotted shoelaces. And finally realizing you don’t know how to tie double-knotted shoelaces.
Show and Tell is about giant stuffed animals from Santa Claus, and knock knock jokes. It’s even about animating the story of how your uncle brought home two new calves this weekend at the auction and the little one’s name is “Tiny”, but your little brother wants to call him “Spiderman”, and he won’t listen to reason…
When you’re eight years old, autumn is about piles of leaves, new boots, and frost on the windows, all while reading and writing poem after poem about “fall” and “geese”… and you love it, just because you get to colour the border with your favourite red pencil crayon and use the electric sharpener.
Friendship is about giggling and laughing so hard over funny faces at lunch that you squirt grape juice out of your nose – and it hurts, so you cry a little, but it’s okay when someone gives you a sugar cookie to make you feel better…
When you’re eight years old, fear is about the unknown.
….Because you don’t understand why your teacher wants you to grab your boots and go home early.
…Because all the windows are covered, and you can’t see the smoke pouring out of your house only a few feet away from the school.
…Because you don’t hear the rumours between how the fire started and why your dad hasn’t worked a day in two years.
…Because you didn’t realize that adults could be afraid.
Imagine all of that, when you are eight years old.
I can’t.
So I just packed her bag. I grabbed her boots. I wished her a good long weekend. I smiled.
And I prayed, so very hard, hoping she couldn’t read my mind as she waved good-bye – still grinning at the surprise of an early long weekend, and excited to go home. Not knowing.
Maybe you’ve forgotten what it’s like to be eight years old.
Maybe it’s too uncomfortable and scary to think about it.
Maybe all you can do is pray.
… But maybe that’s the point.

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